Photo: Bond Woman, Monica Bellucci

I’m on holiday, I’m over-50 and I’m wearing a bikini. My body isn’t ‘beach perfect’ or ‘bikini ready’ or whatever. I’m pear-shaped with a long torso and a ring of middle-aged blubber. I just feel more comfortable in a two-piece. And I’m not alone. There are loads of women of different ages, shapes and sizes wearing bikinis on the beach, too. We may not look like ‘hot celebs over-40’, we look like women on holiday –  and guess what, no one is pointing and staring.

Alyson Walsh; Thats Not My Age; Marks And Spencer; Street Style;
The picture that nearly broke the internet (from my Summer Style Essentials post) Photo: Dvora

My latest piece for the Guardian is on the subject of swimwear – here are a few pointers:

Sarah Jessica Parker photo: US magazine

1. Buy a decent swimsuit – one without ruffles and frills and flounces. One that you can swim in.

2. You’re never too old for a bikini. I totally believe this and hope you do too.

3. Allow yourself enough time to find The One. This involves trying on a few different styles either ordered online or on the high street (I did the latter, in a heatwave, and it was almost a relief to be standing in a changing room in my underwear).

4. Don’t stress over sizes – no one can see the label.

5. Pay attention to details; like Lycra content, removable cups etc

Read the full Guardian article HERE. I’m on holiday & will be back in a bit.

28 thoughts on “You’re never too old for a bikini (and other swimwear advice)

  1. You do look great in bikini!
    As I said before,I like bikini and am wearing it and I feel fine
    I might not be satisfied with my picture in some magasine ,but am pretty happy with my look on the beach. We all have doubts and some fears before holidays but it is important to swim,enjoy on the beach and be happy! Ladies,these are holidays,not a beauty competition!
    I really like to see great one piece swimsuit but don’t feel comfortable in it. Perhaps later,if I need to,I’ll go for a tankini
    Enjoy your holidays 🙂

  2. You look wonderful – relaxed and blissed-out in your bikini. No age limits on wearing what we love and makes us feel good. SJP still has the form of a 25 year old, that one!

  3. I’m a little confused. The point of your essay is that you are comfortable in a bikini, yet you were totally covered up.

  4. You look awesome. A healthy relationship to color never hurts:).

    And I wear a bikini when I’m in the tropics. It even has some sequins on it. So far I haven’t been gawked at or arrested. Go us!

  5. I hear you loud and clear. At 60 years, my choice of swimwear on our recent vacation in France was the bikini. Like you, I have a long torso. I also have a flabby gut from three extremely large babies that were house there before delivering. I got hips. I got cellulite. I earned my stretchmarks! I’ve mentioned in my blog recently that I admire European women because they aren’t as hung up as Americans are. Here, in the USA, most “mature” women go for the matronly tankini or one piece. Anyway, I’m just really really happy you addressed this–and I’m glad you wear a bikini! You look marvelous!

  6. Hello Susan -yes, sorry this photo is from another post on summer essentials. I’m in London there, not on a beach (I’ve linked through now so hope it makes more sense)

  7. Alison, in your Guardian piece, you write “After years of practice, I’ve perfected the sun lounger to submerged-in-the sea dash” – doesn’t this suggest you aren’t entirely comfortable with the exposure of wearing a bikini ? Otherwise, why dash from prone to submerged? If you truly were “more comfortable” in a bikini, wouldn’t you move at a normal and un-self-conscious pace?

    Also, none of the photos of bikini wearers show the bottom half. Only SJP, who is not in a bikini, is shown full-length. And how is using Monica Bellucci as a model meant to encourage or comfort potential bikini wearers? How many of us have a body like Bellucci’s? How about examples that show both top and bottom halves of more average-looking bikini-clad bodies?

    Not trying to be snarky (you’re a pro and I know you can handle push-back), it’s just that I think traditional women’s swimwear (bikini or skin-tight one piece) seems like it’s designed to make feel women uncomfortable and over-exposed (whereas men are allowed the concealing comfort of nice baggy shorts). I realize some women are totally comfortable wearing eensy-weensy bikinis at any age, (as some men love their speedos) and that’s great – more power to them. But even you, who is suggesting bikinis for all, seem to feel a bit too much exposure when on full display between lounger and sea.

  8. This post is perfectly timed with a to-do I have this week on my list: buy a swimsuit. I love your encouragement to wear a bikini and whatever you need to wear it comfortable is fine with me. When I wear sheers, I wear undergarments. If that’s what it takes to allow me to achieve my desire, why not?. These are great tips and I will keep them in mind when I shop this week!

    Accidental Icon

  9. Catbird Farm – thank you for your feedback (I’m taking it like a pro!) The sun lounger comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, I only move fast on the beach when the sand is unbearably hot. I did spend ages looking for images online but it’s not easy finding inspirational pics of older women in swimwear, who are not the obvious celebrities. I went with Monica Bellucci in the end because that’s who the Guardian used, and she’s 50. With swimwear as with other clothes I believe you should wear what makes you feel happy, whatever you’re comfortable in. And I am comfortable in a bikini on the beach.

  10. While I have no problems with other women’s swimwear choices, I have always felt more comfortable, and sleeker, in a one piece maillot, preferably black. Other than a very short period as a young adult, where my weight was about where I wanted it to be, I’ve always found maillots to be more flattering, and not having to worry about any bits flopping about, or falling out, was a huge relief. Of course, something sophisticated and simple is best, and I tend to think stylish one piece suits are the most flattering for just about every woman. If we are encouraged to wear body control underwear to slim and smooth out the lumpy bits, why would we want to show off all the stretch marks and imperfections in the summer? Just my opinion, to each her own…and a little strategic covering up adds a bit of mystery to all the nakedness, don’t you think?

  11. I particularly like your tip #1. Since I am a light-skinned redhead, I do not sunbathe. I wear a swimsuit for the purpose of swimming, so I find a suit in which I am most comfortable swimming, i.e., moving through the water. That means some iteration of the racing suits I wore when, as a teenager decades ago, I was a competitive swimmer. Those one-piece suits come closest to feeling like I have nothing impeding my swimming. My choice of swimwear has nothing at all to do with my age.

  12. This is the first blog post I’ve read of yours and I can already tell you’re awesome. Can’t wait to read more. Rock on in whatever makes you feel good 🙂

  13. Fair enough, Alison. Thanks for your good-natured response. I think my point was to not post “inspirational” pics but rather “realistic” pics. After googling “women over 50 bikini” I saw rather a lot – of course they were celebrities and sure, many looked unrealistic and enhanced one way or another, but I actually thought a fair number looked pretty real (plenty of saggy and droopy bits but bikini-ed nonetheless).

    I agree with Leslie in Oregon, above, in that I’m a life-long swimmer, and tall and slender, and I want performance swimwear so I’m not fussing about in the water keeping bits in place. But to each her own, which I really think was your point: don’t let age or the so-called rules discourage you from doing what makes you feel best about yourself. I think we can all get behind that!

    I always enjoy your column and your blog (even if I am tempted to disagree with you from time to time!) – it’s one of only two fashion blogs that I read daily for your take on staying current with style and taste. Hope you are enjoying your holiday.

  14. Hi there, new reader! For all my life, I have worn bikinis to the beach or pool, and now that I am 41 I am not planning on stopping anytime soon… It’s probably also a cultural thing: here in Italy most women wear bikinis, no matter their age: my mom is 66 and still does! The very weird thing is that during my life, at times, I have felt less than self-confident about my body, but still never thought of not wearing a bikini… Who knows?

  15. I love this photo of you! Very sophisticated, as usual, and the colors are great. I will think about your tips the next time that I go shopping for a swimsuit. Maybe I’ll even try on a bikini, which is something I haven’t done since my 30’s. Thank you for empowering your readers!

  16. I’m fifty-one and pear-shaped and have always worn a bikini. Mostly because, with my long torso, tiny waist, and big hips/butt, one pieces just don’t fit right. Two-pieces offer a lot more options to create a flattering look.

  17. I don’t want to see my stretch marks never mind any one else’s. Bikini’s are for the very young and extremely fit.

  18. A study by TK Maxx concluded that 6 out of 10 women felt more confident about wearing a bikini at age 59 and older than younger women. Me? I am built like Sarah Jessica Parker (another former ballet dancer) and have similarly always loved the tank suit as I like to swim and dive and the tank looks good. But, I will wear the bikini or go naked for sun. WTF. But, you can’t frighten the horses. Know what I’m saying?

  19. We just returned from a cruise of the Mediterranean, and can confirm that most ladies wore bikinis, regardless of their shape, size or age. Alas with my Aussie body cringe, it was a tankini or one piece. I was not always thus. Only after I had my daughter at the age of 40, and was firmly told by the swimwear saleswoman, that ‘there comes a time when we cover up darling’, did I rethink my penchant for flaunting my flesh. It was a sad day really. I’ve never been able to bring myself to wear a bikini since (considering her the expert of course) and I live in the land of never ending sunshine! Maybe I’ll brave the bikini again after your advice. Thanks. Mimi xxx

  20. A few years ago I made friends with my “Mum tum” and swapped back to wearing bikinis again . Actually this year’s buy is the underwired version of yours (M&S) and I think it the most flattering and well made bikini that I have bought so far.

    I do think some fake tan is essential too!

  21. I am 22, but I have only just begun to show my belly at the beach. This summer I just needed to jump in the ocean at the end of a long run so I got down to my sports bra and boyshorts and lept in! It felt so good to not really care what anyone else thought.

  22. This is my new mantra, in spirit if not in practice. I’ve never thought I had the right shape for a bikini, but the one summer I went for it and wore one anyway was so freeing. I was just on holiday in France and one day I saw a woman in a bright turquoise bikini. She was 80 if she was a day and looked fabulous.

  23. Wear what you want, but bear in mind anyone over the age of 25 or who has had their first heavy pregnancy looks creepy and classless in a bikini. Modern culture is obsessed with youth, but there comes a point where you need to ditch the bows and glitter and lace collars on your shirts and act your age…

  24. My sister lived at Ipanema beach in Rio for a couple of years, when a young mum. Her Brazilian friends made her buy bikinis, because “everyone wears them, regardless” of their body. She looked around, and yes, it was true. Even at 75, regardless of size and shape, women were wearing bikinis everywhere.

    Me, I’m not ashamed to wear a bikini (though far from being a stick insect) but I don’t like the thread veins behind my knees. Might knee pads be a possibility?

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